I once heard a saying by Ravi Zacharias which deals with the relationship of what is inside of us and what comes out of us. He said:
“When you are bumped, what you are full of spills out.”
Pretty sobering, is it not? In other words, you can really tell what is inside of a person – what the condition of their heart is – based on what comes out of them when they encounter the “bumps” of life.
Jesus expressed the same philosophy to the Pharisees when, in Matthew 12:34-36, he says,
“Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”
That last statement is particularly frightening in that it ties every single word that escapes the confines of our lips to the day of judgment when we stand before Christ our King. The words that we say, and the manner in which we say them, reveal far more than simply how we feel “in the heat of the moment”. Jesus tells us that they actually spring forth out of the evil that is harbored within us.
Not too long ago, I had an instance where what came out of me frightened me. I had, just a few months prior, received the gracious gift of an ipad from my congregation, which was quickly employed in most every arena of my life. One day, without thinking, I set it down on the driver’s seat of our van. Then, like children do, my kids began barreling out of the car like an angry herd of rhinos. One child performed a high-quality knee drop right on the screen, immediately and irreversibly sending a crack from one end to the other. I became almost enraged for some reason, and instantly sought to discipline my child. Suddenly, the Spirit spoke to me in that moment. “Why are you so angry about that material possession that you didn’t even purchase to begin with? Aren’t you the one that thoughtlessly and carelessly placed it in the chair?” My reaction frightened me because it caused a light to shine in this dark place in my heart. Luckily, rather than immediately discipline my child out of anger, I repented before the Lord of this “evil treasure” in my heart.
What spills out of you when you are bumped? What reaction springs forth from the depths of your soul when you don’t get your way? What is the response of your heart in those moments when your will collides with the will of God, or even with the will of your fellow man? The sharp rebuke received by the Pharisees from Jesus had everything to do with the inner condition of their heart before their Lord, and this condition was evident based on the words they said and the manner in which they were spoken.
Each of could spend more time, I am sure, in the presence of the Lord repenting of the idle words which all too often roll off our sometimes forked tongues. Go before Christ and ask Him and plead with Him to fill you up with His precious Holy Spirit so that, when the inevitable and inescapable bumps of life collide with you, that it is His Spirit and that alone which spills out of you and not some “evil treasure” of the flesh.
Imagine the success that an enemy could have if, rather than directly engaging the opponent, he simply enticed the opposition to fight against itself. His work would be accomplished without so much as firing a shot or even loading his weapon.
Although the factuality of the battle is questionable, a story is widely propagated and believed that this actually occurred in the late eighteenth century within the Austrian Army.
“Here’s how the story goes: in 1788, Austria was at war with Turkey, fighting for control of the Danube River. About 100,000 Austrian troops had set up camp near Karansebes, a village that is now located in present-day Romania. Some scouts were sent ahead to see if they could find any Turks. Rather than find evidence of the opposing army, they found gypsies who had a lot of alcohol to sell, and they bought it.
The scouts brought the alcohol back to camp and started drinking, since the best thing to do the night before a big battle is get very, very drunk. As their little party became louder and more obnoxious, it attracted the attention of several foot soldiers who wanted to join in. The scouts were not open to sharing their find, and being drunk, they didn’t express this with a lot of tact.
An argument broke out, which soon escalated. The alcohol was confiscated, more people joined in, punches were thrown, and a shot rang out. Amidst the mayhem, someone shouted that the Turks had arrived.
Caught unawares and unprepared, most soldiers fled the scene immediately. Others got into formation and charged at the supposed enemy. Shots were fired, cavalry was assembled, and the defecting soldiers were killing every man they saw without thinking.
Needless to say, the Turkish army had not arrived. They wandered into Karansebes two days later and found 10,000 dead or wounded Austrian soldiers. A little confused by this turn of events, they were nonetheless delighted to take Karansebes without any effort at all.”
The enemy, the Turks, took their objective without any effort at all. Jesus gives His followers several stern warnings about their enemy: Satan. Jesus says that Satan is a murderer and liar (John 8:44), that he attempts to snatch away what has been sown in our hearts (Matthew 13:19), and that his purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy our lives (John 10:10). Truly, this is our enemy. One of the most effective tactics of our enemy is to get us fighting and competing with one another. One of Satan’s most effective strategies is to simply get God’s people fighting and competing amongst themselves rather than fighting and competing against their real enemy. When this is accomplished, his work is complete! He can achieve his objective with little effort at all, simply sowing seeds of discord and watching us fight each other to death.
Mike Breen, a British pastor and founder of the 3DM “missional community” church model, noted the following about the American church:
“You will never find a more hyper-competitive culture than you do in the United States. As a foreigner living in this land, I can attest to that with the utmost respect. Americans love to win, they love the struggle of the journey and love holding up the gold medal of victory. Now don’t hear me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive, it’s just how competition has become warped and twisted within our culture. And it’s that, at least in the church, we are competitive about the wrong things. Much of the American church finds itself competing with the church down the road. “Are we bigger than them? Do we have more influence than them? Do we have the best/biggest youth group in town? Do people like to get married in our church building? Do people like our church better than theirs?” The fact of the matter is that there is a battle, we do have an enemy and we should be competitive…but against our enemy! What we haven’t seen is how crafty he is. This seems to be the alliance he has struck with the American church: “I’ll let a good chunk of your churches grow…just not at the expense of my territory.” And so what happens? 96% of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of our enemy’s territory. We’ll consider it a win because we have the new service or program that is growing…but that growth is mainly from people coming from other churches. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss. Furthermore, for many pastors, we don’t think we’ve won until we’ve won AND someone else has lost. Seriously?! For sure, we have an enemy and we should be competitive, but we should be competing against our enemy, knowing that the final battle has already been won, and not competing against our own team members. So gifted and skilled is our enemy, so conniving is he, that he has convinced us that beating the people on our own team is victory while he stands back and laughs, rarely having to ever engage in conflict, protecting his territory. He is beating us with a slight of hand, with a clever distraction, turning us against ourselves. Question: In what ways are you competing (both in actuality or simply in your mind) against people who are on your own team?”
So, the question remains: are you competing against people on your own team? If so, let’s go before the Lord and ask Him to show us how we can work together through the unity of the Holy Spirit to achieve His objective and defeat our real enemy, Satan.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.